For the unlearned, the humanities is that area of study dealing expressly with human culture. Whether it is sociology, religion, or the classics — the law, history, and languages — the field is wide and expansive. It is easy to get lost in it, easy to ignore, and painful when we realize we have.
Indeed, the often-told joke — those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it — was modified to now say, “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it; those who do know history are doomed to watch others repeat it.” For those of us in the humanities, we do have a little bit of fear that our society will forget us and in doing so, forget themselves.
There is a new start-up trying to bring new light to the field, however.
Joshua L. Mann, who I have had the pleasure of knowing for several years via our shared interest in blogging biblical studies, has launched his first kickstarter for his online magazine dedicated solely to the humanities.
Expositus exists to prosper a community of learners and experts, who advance our knowledge of the world, by providing blogs to scholars, web-based tools for research, and resources for learning. Expositus opens knowledge.
I asked Josh for a bit more. “Expositus.org is a website that provides blogs to scholars and tools for everyone. It is an attempt to bridge the gap between scholars and lay persons, scholarly research and the public that funds it. We help humans understand the humanities,” Mann told me.
But, they need money to get it off the ground. That is the biggest issue with humanities, I think — the cold, hard cash. While many see the easy returns in sports or technology, few see the benefits of investing in humanities. There are places that do, however, like Boston College and Humanities Tennessee. Yes, the humanities is a field that needs investing. It is not dead, it is not even on life support — it just needs to have some attention brought to it. Thanks to folks like Mann, that is happening from the ground level.
I haven’t availed myself of my privileges here at Unsettled Christianity for quite some time. At least not since the time I changed the tagline to “where joel incessantly brain vomits nonsense into cyberspace.” Thanks to Jim for preserving that for perpetual memory, or at least until he decides to shut down his blog again.
But, I wanted to take the opportunity to put in a shameless plug since Joel is constantly doing that for his books here anyway and you’re all accustomed to it … Actually, I breakfast with Joel recently and he said I could/should.
For about two years, I was a part of a team of people who worked on a tool within Logos Bible Software called the Bible Sense Lexicon. The project was headed by Sean Boisen, who you can follow on Twitter and also involved David Witthoff who can be found there as well (our Greek counterpart Mark Keaton isn’t on social media, for shame).
The Bible Sense Lexicon is a tool that allows users to better search and explore the bible. In order to give some insight into how the tool can be useful we’ve started a feed on the Logos Academic blog called “Sense of the Day” (think Webster’s Word of the Day). Sense of the day is described as follows:
Sense of the Day is based on content from Logos’ Bible Sense Lexicon, which organizes biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words by meaning based on a variety of semantic relationships. Sense of the Day provides examples of senses in context, along with insight into their application for theology and interpretation.
I hope you will check out some or all of the links and consider subscribing to the feed to interact with us about this new tool. You can comment on the blog or send questions via the Logos Academic Twitter account (which also posts the Sense of the Day Link) or shoot them directly at me.
And now back to your regularly scheduled program of Joel brain vomiting nonsense into cyberspace.
First, let me tackle William Law, an intellectual predecessor to John and Charles Wesley:
What does it mean to have serious faith? From the time he was a boy, William Law attempted to make his commitment to Christ real in all aspects of his life. He felt strongly that one’s commitment to God took precedence over all competing commitments. Law lived this out, willingly giving up his fellowship at Cambridge rather than breaking an oath. Both in person and through his written works, Law had a major influence on John and Charles Wesley.
The Works of William Law contains all of Law’s writings, as well as his letters. Research Law’s influence on Wesley by examining their works side by side. Get definitions for obscure English words using the dictionary lookup tool. See Scripture references on mouseover. Get near-instant search results using Logos’ powerful search tools.
Skimming through Law’s works, I find some interesting bits. For instance, he didn’t care for “stage entertainments.” But, in particular I want to focus on Vol V, in which he offers a rebuttal to English deist, Matthew Tindal.
For Law, the sacrament of the Eucharist is the foundation of Christian doctrine:
The Foundation on which he proceeds, and the principal Matters of his Discourse, are not only notoriously against the Truth of the Sacrament, but plainly destructive of the principal Doctrines of the Christian Religion.
And if this Key of Knowledge, put into your Hands by this Author, is accepted by you, you will not only lose all the right Knowledge of this Sacrament, but be rendered a blind, deaf, and even dead Reader of all the other Doctrines of Scripture. For the Way he points out to find the Truth of the Doctrine of the Sacrament, is the only Way to lose the Truth of all the most important Parts of the Gospel. 1
As you can receive or believe nothing higher of our Saviour, than that he is the Atonement for our Sins, and a real Principle of Life to us; so every Height and Depth of Devotion, Faith, Love, and Adoration, which is due to God as your Creator, is due to God as your Redeemer.
Jacob’s Ladder that reached from Earth to Heaven, and was filled with Angels ascending and descending between Heaven and Earth, is but a small Signification of that Communion between God and Man, which this holy Sacrament is the Means and Instrument of.
Now here it may be proper for you to observe, that whatever Names or Titles this Institution is signified to you by, whether it be called a Sacrifice propitiatory, or commemorative; whether it be called an holy Oblation, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the Heavenly Banquet, the Food of Immortality, or the Holy Communion, and the like, matters not much. For all these Words or Names are right and good, and there is nothing wrong in them, but the striving and contention about them.
For they all express something that is true of the Sacrament, and therefore are every one of them, in a good Sense, rightly applicable to it; but all of them are far short of expressing the whole Nature of the Sacrament, and therefore the Help of all of them is wanted.2
Joseph Butler is best known for his contributions to religious philosophy and Christian apologetics. His profound spiritual insight coupled with his vast knowledge of earthly wisdom helped him grapple with the complex philosophical issues of his time. He explored questions of human nature and morality, using them as a basis for establishing our apparent design. A well-known Anglican preacher, Butler laid the foundation for William Paley’s watchmaker analogy.
One of the principle founders of the Methodist movement with his brother John Wesley, Charles Wesley was also a gifted preacher, orator, and hymnist. In fact, Wesley is said to have penned over 6,000 hymns! Many of these hymns are still used today—including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” and “Soldiers of Christ, Arise.”
The Works of Charles Wesley (22 vols.) brings together all of Charles’ most important writings, including:
G. Osborn’s 13 volume Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley
Thousands of Charles Wesley’s greatest hymns
The much loved Short Hymns on Select Passages of the Holy Scriptures, Charles’ poetic commentary on the Old and New Testaments
The two-volume collected journals of Charles Wesley
Sermons of the Late Rev. Charles Wesley
John Telford and Thomas Jackson’s biographies of Charles Wesley
And much, much more!
This is the most complete collection of Charles Wesley’s writings available in print or electronically! What’s more, the Logos edition makes The Works of Charles Wesley (22 vols.) more widely available and easier to access than ever! From the countless Scripture references linked straight to the biblical text, to the powerful search tools in your digital library, the Logos edition lets you encounter Wesley like never before. Logos also makes navigating lengthy, multivolume works easier than ever—such as the 13 volume Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley or his massive catalog of hymns and poems. The Works of Charles Wesley (22 vols.) is a must have for pastors, teachers, and anyone interested in studying the works of the “sweet singer” of Methodism.
With the wealth of theological texts available today, trying to find the most valuable books can be daunting. To guide divinity students as they wade through centuries of theological scholarship, John Randolph published Enchiridion Theologicum: A Manual for the Use of Students in Divinity. These two volumes bring together what he professes to be the most vital theological texts on which a student should base his or her studies. Its intention is not to detract from larger topical studies or assert these writings as superior to all others, but simply to provide a textual basis for understanding and interpreting the truth of Scripture—one that has passed the tests of time and scholarly examination. Randolph calls these texts “landmarks” to help direct larger studies.
Enchiridion Theologicum contains 21 essential texts for students in divinity. A handful of well-known texts are in Latin, including The Apology of the Church of England by John Jewel. These writings discuss free thinking, deists, transubstantiation, the mysteries of Scripture, divine revelation, the Trinity, and more.
William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 5, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 3. ↩
William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 5, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 53–54. ↩
I will grant you all that you can suppose, of the Goodness of God, and that no Creature will be finally lost, but what Infinite Love cannot save.
But still, here is no Shadow of Security for Infidelity; and your refusing to be saved through the Son of God, whilst the Soul is in the redeemable State of this Life, may at the Separation of the Body, for aught you know, leave it in such a Hell, as the infinite Love of God cannot deliver it from. For, first, you have no Kind, or Degree of Proof, that your Soul is not that dark, self-tormenting, anguishing and imperishable Fire, above-mentioned, which has lost its own proper Light, and is only comforted by the Light of the Sun, till its Redemption be effected. Secondly You have no Kind, or Degree of Proof, that God himself can redeem, or save, or enlighten this dark Fire-Soul, any other Way than, as the Gospel proposes, by the Birth of the Son of God in it. Therefore your own Hearts must tell you, that for aught you know, Infidelity, or the refusing of this Birth of the Son of God, may, at the End of Life, leave you in such a State of Self-torment, as the infinite Love of God can no way deliver you from.1
William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 5, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 158. ↩
Adrianna W. posted this (her post is public, so if you are on FB, join in), so, you know… HT to her:
But the democratizing of book reviews, such that even self-published and low print-run books published by small presses can garner dozens of reviews by promoting “blog tours” or sending copies to readers with the expectation that they will post an Amazon review, has led not to better information for readers, but to a preponderance of inaccurate gushing.
John Hobbins spoke about this issue at the 2012 SBL Online Media and Publications section. You can read his paper here. I had hoped to see a follow-up section on this very topic, as his was a call rather than a diagram of what to expect. That section has yet to materialize.
Given the rise of online review platforms, such as Marginalia and Syndicate, not to mention the droves of bloggers who review, I have to agree that we need something of a standard. Of course, this will have to go both ways. Publishers have to be less willing to give out review copies if the reviewer doesn’t do a good job.
There is little doubt I have my favorite publishers, and not just because they give me books to review. I trust IVP, Kregel, Eerdmans, Baker, Fortress, and Energion because of their standards. I do not trust other publishers, and no I will not mention them. buT Y kNow, Don’t you, the not-ALE HOUSE i’m talking about? And likewise, I want them to trust me to give an honest review. Also, there are times I do my best to let some publishers, even passively, know that I do not need to be considered for some books. Seriously, I cannot handle much more of the inerrancy debate.
Some other thoughts…
I try to give good reviews based on the goal of the book and how effectively the author reaches it. For instance, in a recent review, I disagree with some of the author’s conclusions on X — however, that was not the goal of the book. I did mention that I disagreed with it, but I moved on. Sometimes, the goal of the book is simply not met and/or met in such a way as to cause some concern with the author’s cognitive capacity. American Patriot’s Bible, anyone?
Even with Kruger’s book about the canon, I tried to give an honest review and not because of the publisher and the awesome people there.
Sometimes, I end my reviews with “buy/read this book if X” so as to tell who would like the book.
The author of the above piece notes that she had received negative feedback from authors, publishers, and fans of those books she didn’t like. To be honest, unless the review needs a response (as a review of Chris Keith’s book did, once) authors and publishers should sort of mind their own business about reviews. Fans will follow you around. That’s the nature of the game. If you are perceived as bad mouthing a hero and you will be attacked. This is where the “block” feature comes in handy.
Further, the author notes “I recall one first-time author whose friends penned lavish review after lavish review.” This is not going to be fixed, except by ethical authors. I mean, friends aren’t going to always read the book as an unbiased observer — but because they are familiar with the author may more often than not hear the voice of the author while they are reading the book. Yes, friends may simply pen a review because of friendship, but I would suspect that lavish reviews are in part due to knowing the author. Publishers should work to not send authors’ friends copies. Authors will, however, do so.
Again, the ethical considerations for and in book reviewing needs to go both ways, or three ways.
But to the blogger’s point. I do not think the internet is killing the book review. I think it is helping to further knowledge, advance the Kingdom, and to serve the intellectual appetites of many. Just because you get some garbage with the gold doesn’t mean the book review is dead, in the server room, with the space bar.
Fortress Press is moving Christian education in the classroom beyond the four walls, the dry erase boards, and the dead trees of textbooks to something rich and vibrant, something that is going to grasp the imagination of the student. Tim Dowley’s (editor) Introduction to the History of Christianity is not simply an “e-book” but a multi-media experience. It moves beyond the portability offered by Kindle and iBook to something the teacher and student can both use to share and in many ways reimagine the words on the virtual page.
I cannot strictly limit this review to the contents of the book; however, as this is something of a book review, I want to speak, albeit ever so briefly, about what is before us. This is the second edition of the book, enhanced from the previous one by additions to the narrative of Jesus (in the form of contributions from well-known critical scholars such as Richard Burridge). There are plenty of color charts, maps, and pictures to stimulate you as well as small helps along the way. Further, as I explore certain topics that are dear to me, I find these topics are often presented with an acute sense of fairness. For instance, the topic on Methodism. Here, Dowley correctly situations Wesley and his people in the proper time frame, proper theological dialogues, and helps to draw out their influence on (American) Christianity. Likewise, Dowley’s even-handedness doesn’t end with Methodism, but continues on with such things as Vatican II. I must note that this is the first such book to spend even a brief moment on the rise of mythicism (p25). Also, Dowley doesn’t just pay lip-service to the East, but brings them into the picture equally with the West. The skill of the editor and the contributors can be seen throughout the 43 chapters. No doubt, this is one of the more extensive and important church history introductions available to student and autodidact alike.
But, the Inkling platform avails us of something more. It gives us an interactive experience. Not only can I take the books wherever I go, but they are linked to other internet sources including Youtube and CCEL. Thus, what was once one book has now become a virtual library of resources and a wealth of information on a multi-media rostrum. Yes, like Kindle and other platforms, there is the synchronization of notes and highlights, but unlike Kindle, there is a social aspect to it. In a classroom, you can actually utilize this book to aid in discussion by sharing notes, thoughts, and other items via the Inkling system. Thus, students and the teacher(s) can dialogue even in the comfort of their own home. It’s like social media, but helpful.
Inkling also provides for a multimedia experience when it comes to maps. They boast, and rightly so, of a “guided tour” when it comes to the maps. Honestly, the best part of a bible were the maps when I was growing up. Now — now! Fortress Press gives me maps (and charts) in stereo! There is the ability to zoom in, to open pop-ups, and they even throw in thematic material. For example, on the chart “Beginnings,” I get a neat timeline between 0 and 325, complete with Roman figures, evens from the New Testament, and early Christian writings. There are 5 pop ups, each with added material. I’ve taken a screenshot below:
At the end of each section (each section has several chapters), there is an assessment. These will not supplement a rigorous testing but will help the student to retain something of where things are in the book.
I have spent some time with this book, introducing it to others and in use in a classroom setting. It is beyond helpful for survey courses, small group studies, and even larger group studies. I have the Inkling iOS app. There are plenty of times, when I stream it to my tv via Apple TV. Further, pastors should be able to set it up via projector for larger gatherings.
There has to be an evolution of learning tools. Books, while they will forever remain with us, will never be the complete resource they once were. By combining technology, the information age, and the conceptual age, Fortress Press and Inkling have given teachers, students, and autodidacts something that will push the classroom experience to new heights.
Immerse yourself in ancient-language texts and detailed Scripture exegesis with the Pontifical Biblical Institute Ancient Language Studies. This 50-volume collection compiles a broad range of works—from interpretation of Scripture to grammatical analysis of Hebrew Poetry, from Aramaic inscriptions to Greek word studies.
The Pontifical Biblical Institute has been publishing critical and instructional texts since it was established by Pope Pius X in 1909. The PBI seeks to “cultivate and promote, by means of scholarly research, the biblical and relevant ancient Near Eastern disciplines, with due respect to the nature of each one of them, in order to obtain ‘a more profound understanding and exposition of the meaning of Sacred Scripture.’” Each volume in this collection serves those same aims, with explorations of Ugaritic, Akkadian, Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew. Whether you’re a new student of ancient literature or a seasoned ministry professional, gain clarity and depth in your study with this valuable collection.
The PBI is a stellar institution. I have several of their resources already – and I would not think of engaging the original languages without them.
Explore the historical, social, theological, and pastoral perspectives on the New Testament with this substantial bundle from Fortress Press. Authors Neil Elliott, E.P. Sanders, Terence L. Donaldson, Ben Witherington III, and many more contribute to this comprehensive and diverse trove of resources. Pastors, students, and anyone interested in reinforcing their understanding of Christ’s ministry, the nuances of the Gospels, and the life and theology of Paul will appreciate the value of this collection.
Seventy volumes cover an array of significant topics—Paul’s relationship to Jewish tradition and thought, the nature and implications of Christ’s crucifixion, the formation of the canon, the historic Jesus, the political context of Rome, and more. There are dozens of volumes on Paul and Jesus, seven specifically on John’s Gospel, four on Matthew’s, and five on Luke/Acts. Equip yourself for meaningful study of God’s Word with the Fortress Press New Testament Studies Bundle.
There is at once among Protestants a supreme knowledge of Romans and yet a depth of ignorance. We read it as if we know what Paul is saying, and sometimes we do, but in the end we are going? to miss a lot of the meaning behind Paul’s letter. Why? Because we are reading Paul, looking for words rather than looking for structure. We assign meaning to the words, but Paul has carefully chosen his wording based on a structure.
But, there is a move to fix that. Stanley Stowers proposed a different reading of Romans, based on rhetorical apostrophes. Douglas Campbell recently proposed reading Romans, using rhetoric, but as if the whole piece is deeply entrenched in rhetoric. And I cannot help but mention the New Perspective(s) on Paul. With all of these “new” readings of Romans, one would think we could know just about every angle there is, to read Romans in every way possible. There is still room, however, in exploring Romans. I believe Steve Runge’s new commentary will help to moderate some modern stances while enlivening more traditional ones.
The High Definition Romans Commentary works with the methodology Runge laid down in his Discourse series and exampled in the High Definition New Testament. More than that, it attempts to connect the academy to the Church, from the literary to the literological. Runge accomplishes his task, not just “well enough,” but in a grand fashion wherein this reviewer at times wanted to show some measure of physical excitement at what he was reading.
The commentary is written with you in mind. Rather than modify that statement, to surround “you” with either the academic or the lay, or other, qualifiers, just know: this commentary is written to you. In that regards, there are no footnotes to vast amounts of data you most likely either know or wouldn’t read anyway. Rather, you are able to read the commentary based on what the structure provides, albeit with Runge’s voice in the foreground.
As the author states, the commentary is not about what is said, but how it is said. Thus, he guides us through Paul’s structuring of Romans as the definitive way of reading Romans. We do not have to wait long for Runge to dive deep into this. He opens up with Paul’s purpose, easily identified in the first few lines of Romans — he wants to introduce himself to the Roman church. He wants to build a relationship. Thus, he must carefully detail his theology. He stresses how each point serves a purpose in Paul’s rhetoric. Indeed, not much in Romans, if anything, is written on a whim. Every word, given the appropriate structure, is given purpose.
I have written before on Romans 1.18-32. I simply feel that of all the passages in Paul’s writings, deutero– or otherwise, this passage is the most misused. In fact, I will judge a commentary on Romans by how this singular passage is presented. Perhaps this is why I am drawn so heavily into Douglas Campbell’s viewpoint. So that is why I am going to use my review and interaction with this passage as a way to show you why I accept this commentary as valid and the methodology of Runge as important.
Keep in mind, I’ve only seen the pre-publication copy. I cannot, thus, cite page numbers and will not directly cite Runge’s words. They may change during the final publication review.
Runge challenges me, but he doesn’t do it by stating, “the bible says.” Rather, Runge is showing how something is said and doing very little to add to Scripture. Indeed, even though we arrive at different conclusions, he raises points I had never seen before because, even though I pride myself on attempting to read this passage as deeply rhetorical, I still read it with a wooden structure.
For instance, what is the wrath of God revealed against? Here, Runge isn’t carefully crafting anything. There is nothing else but to show by refracting our vision to see Paul’s structure what is actually happening in this passage. Again, I don’t want to reveal too much, but I believe this is the first time I’ve seen this revealed in any critical Romans commentary. Why? Because Runge is revealing Paul’s structure and in doing so, he is revealing the central elements to Paul’s statements such as connecting words, pointing words, and framing language.
We do much the same thing when we diagram sentences in English. We strip away the pointers and other qualifiers to get to the heart of the sentence. Runge does the same thing. But in stripping away some of the elements Paul uses, he also strips away our patina, the glaze of our own theological stances, to reveal to us something we may be missing.
In the end, what Runge does in Romans 1.18-32 is to reveal Paul’s structure and then to help, ever so slightly, to define what is going on here. Yes, he and I arrive at different conclusions on this, but he has caused me to reconsider my already known and set-in-stone facts about this passage.
Another section that I think epitomizes Runge’s work on Romans is his reflection on Romans 3 after he has completed Romans 9. Other commentators often accuse Paul of having drifting thoughts. Yet, Runge shows this is not the case. In fact, I contend, the more so after reading this commentary, that Paul wants his readers to re-read Romans while they are reading it. What do I mean?
When Runge arrives to Romans 9, he is able to then refer back to Romans 3 based on the structure of Romans 9. We must assume, then, the audience after hearing Romans 9 (or rather, what is Romans 9) would immediately start to recall what had been said just a few minutes before (in Romans 3). This would then trigger their thought process to reprocess what they had heard up until that point because suddenly everything is making sense. Paul is not simply laying down a linear path, but writing as the sea billows wave — paths on top of each other.
Why would you need this book? In my opinion, every serious scholar and exegete (preaching or otherwise) needs this book. First, if you have the High Definition New Testament, you will finally get to see what Runge is doing. This is the High-Def NT in action. Second, this helps to understand Paul’s main point of Romans. I believe Stowers is correct, that this epistle is a protreptic forerunner; however, he did not have the structure laid so bare as to reveal why he felt this way. All he had was the common rhetorical clues and a good argument. Runge, while not intentionally following Stowers’ suggestion, helps to prove Paul’s thesis is one of introduction, of theology laid bare. While Stowers argues, Runge demonstrates.
A final word about Runge’s methodology. Often times, when discussing rhetoric or other structuring elements in a text, we are tempted to jump into Schweizer’s well. We see in that text more of ourselves and how we would structure something rather than allowing the ancient author his own pen. As much as I have tried, I do not see this in Runge’s work. Rather, I see a consistent methodology that only springs into a commentary. Of course Runge is operating within predetermined framework, but I do not believe this has led him to be biased against Paul’s natural structure. Rather, any reader of this commentary and Romans should be able to see how natural this commentary is based on Paul’s structure as suggested by Runge — and how natural Runge’s scaffolding is natural to the inherent Pauline text. You are not going to be told how to see it; Runge is simply pointing out important clues so that you will see what is already there.
There are other benefits to this book. In the Logos Bible Software platform, the publication will be accompanied with a plethora of teaching slides that are excellent for the classroom and the sanctuary. Further, it helps to truly bring the uniqueness of the High-def New Testament to light. It provides a clear process to follow in reading Romans. In other words, it doesn’t use a lot of confusing language to show you simply what is happening in the text. It doesn’t argue anything; rather, Runge states what he sees and tells you just a little about how this applies. As an added plus, Runge’s language helps the reader to understand the structure by carefully selected words such as “hinge,” “framing,” and “drawing out.”
I’ve been watching closely as Logos has been releasing these new packages and I was super excited when I checked my email today and saw the release of the Lutheran Bible Software packages!
There are several reasons why I would want to get my hands on a copy of this: there are 15 volumes of the Bonhoeffer Works series (yeah, it’s missing one, but I can overlook that), the selected works by Luther, and Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith…to name a few.
Instead of randomly going through, I want to delve a bit deeper. My reasons are manifold. First, this is a package which will startle many with the price. Granted, there are payment plans and dynamic pricing, but some may be put off. You shouldn’t be.
Second, as a (high church) United Methodist, I find a great deal of doctrinal footing in the Anglican Church. If I am going to do theology as United Methodist, then I intend to do it in line with the tradition of the United Methodist Church which doesn’t just extend to Wesley, but into the Anglican Church as well. Wesleyan theology isn’t ex nihilio, but ex materia.
(shucks, maybe even ex deo)
Third, because, combining both one and two, theology is not cheap. If you are going to do it right, you will have to invest into something, even if it is a library card.
English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, I am starting with the 17th Century theologians included in the Gold package. First, is Jeremy Taylor:
Jeremy Taylor (15 August 1613 – 13 August 1667) was a clergyman in the Church of England who achieved fame as an author during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. He is sometimes known as the “Shakespeare of Divines” for his poetic style of expression and was often presented as a model of prose writing. He is remembered in the Church of England’s calendar of saints with a Lesser Festival on 13 August. He was under the patronage of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury.
This is a 4 volume set. Let me highlight the last one in the series:
A Discourse on the Liberty of Prophesying is an essay on the need for religious freedom. It purports to show “the unreasonableness of prescribing to other men’s [sic] faith; and the eniquity [sic] of persecuting differing opinions.” The essay is unique for a number of reasons, one of which is that it was written nearly 50 years before John Locke’s seminal “A Letter Concerning Toleration.”
There is something in the opening line of the introductory essay. In speaking of the downfall of the Roman empire, the author writes, “over which the mists of ignorance were settling with increasing density, and from which public virtue had fled, all remains of liberty became extinct.”
Taylor has a chapter in the book title, “Of the Difficulty of Expounding Scripture.” He writes,
THESE considerations are taken from the nature of Scripture itself; but then, if we consider that we have no certain ways of determining places of difficulty and question, infallibly and certainly; but that we must hope to be saved in the belief of things plain, necessary, and fundamental, and our pious endeavor to find out God’s meaning in such places, which he hath left under a cloud, for other great ends reserved to his own knowledge, we shall see a very great necessity in allowing a liberty in prophesying, without prescribing authoritatively to other men’s consciences, and becoming lords and masters of their faith.1
Likewise, there is Bishop Thomas Ken (another Wesley favorite).
The Works of Thomas Ken presents the works of a famous scholar and chaplain during the late 1600s in England. This collection includes one of his most well-known works—the pamphlet Ichabod, otherwise known as The Five Groans of the Church—which Ken wrote a few years after his ordination. Eager to spread Christianity to others, he was an avid writer and teacher. His sermons, letters, hymns, and poems are also included, which cover temptation, judgment, resurrection, and more.
Finally, there is John Cosin,
The Works of John Cosin is a collection of the most prominent writings Cosin produced over a career as a bishop and a scholar. The series includes sermons, articles, letters, and books, including one of his best known works, A Scholastical History of the Canon of the Holy Scripture. In this book, Cosin dives into the history of the canonical books through the testimonies of the ecclesiastical writers from the first through the sixteenth centuries, elaborating why Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation.
I suspect that any of the three, but especially all of the three, would speak well to us today.
As technology, ideas and the world itself moves ever forward, the
christian church has been grappling with the difficult questions. It has always been like this and I suspect it will continue to be like this. The more learned write papers and books, the less learned read them. Many of us blog, tweet and post Facebook statuses. Teachers teach and preachers preach and ideas and attitudes change or not depending on who is the most influential. I wonder if in all the struggling with the difficult questions, that we missed the point, that we have missed the central question of it all?
Throughout the NT we see Jesus ask questions, tell stories, live His life by and even on occasion simply teach principles to live by and emulate. Jesus is continually calling, encouraging and even perhaps begging us to self examination and reflection for the purpose of those things leading to transformation. In many ways, arguably the most famous teachings of Jesus in the sermon on the mount found in Matthew chapters 5-7 is a self examination checklist. Is my life reflecting these teachings? Am I the salt of the earth? Am I light? A peacemaker, do I mourn, do I really hunger and thirst for righteousness? It goes on.
John Wesley is credited with opening his group meetings with this somewhat famous question: “How is it with your soul?” The purpose was actually rather simple. It goes deeper than how are you doing, it goes deeper than how are the wife and kids, it goes deeper than how is the job. It cuts directly to the central question in the journey of faith. How is it with your soul? How is the transformation process going in your life? So, your heart was strangely warmed- great- what has come next? Before any teaching on the difficult things, before any grappling with the times and our place in them as Christians, there was the central question – the question Jesus kept referring us to as well- How is it with your soul?
United Methodist churches and authors have written volumes on the subject and encouraged us to ask each other the question to keep ourselves honest. When was the last time someone asked you? No one has asked me. I have often been asked my stance on the bible, on free will, on predetermination, on the sacraments as a means of grace, on foot washing, etc. but not really the central question. Lately it has all centered on the question of what my stance on homosexuality is. How sad is it that in this day and age, after several thousand years to have the ability to examine the importance of the central question that seemingly everyone is asking what is your stance on homosexuality, and seemingly no one is asking how is it with your soul?